bosnia report
New Series No: 19/20 October - December 2000
Telephones directory project
by Andras Riedlmayer

Telephone Directory Project

Andras Riedlmayer

Some International Justice Watch list members may recall our search for ex-Yugoslav telephone directories, as a source of ‘politically neutral’ data on population and residency. I am pleased to report that the project has now been successfully completed. As a result of a two-year project initiated by a group of Balkan specialists and librarians and involving the cooperation of institutions and individuals in half a dozen countries, we have succeeded in locating a comprehensive series of telephone directories covering data for all of the former republics and autonomous regions of the late SFR Yugoslavia. The microform publisher Norman Ross Inc. has recently completed filming the entire set of directories, and is making this unique resource available to research libraries, international organizations, government agencies, NGOs, and other interested parties.

Telephone directories may seem the most commonplace of items, but in fact they are usually discarded by most people and institutions within a year or two of issue. Out-of-print directories are extremely hard to locate, and we know for a fact that no institution - in the Balkans or elsewhere - currently owns more than a small subset of the directories that we have managed to collect and record on microfilm. The complete set consists of 101 reels of archival microfilm, with directories dating from the 1960s to the end of the 1990s; it includes complete coverage of all ex-YU republics and autonomous regions for the 15-year period before the break-up of Yugoslavia. These microfilms are being published by Norman Ross Inc., the publisher of the microfiche edition of the Official Journal of the European Union. A list of the telephone directories that have been filmed for this project can be found at (for download in pdf format) or (for Web-browsing).

Purchasers of the microfilms will be free to reformat the data (e.g. by scanning the entries into a database) for research and other non-profit uses.

The last Yugoslav census with full coverage of all parts of the country, including Kosovo, was conducted almost two decades ago (1981). The 1991 census was boycotted by Kosovo's Albanian majority population in protest against Belgrade's unilateral abolition of Kosovo's autonomous status. Results for some other regions have also been called into question. Given the time elapsed, the highly-charged politics surrounding questions of residency, citizenship and ethnicity - esp. in Kosovo, but also in places such as Croatia and Bosnia - and the recent, large-scale forced movement of populations, politically ‘neutral’ data of the kind preserved in this series of directories is very hard to come by.

Public records in many Kosovo municipalities were removed en masse (or in some cases destroyed) by the Serbian authorities as they withdrew from Kosovo in June 1999. On 22 November 1999 the Ministry of Justice in Belgrade ( )

announced that these public records had been moved to Serbia in order ‘to prevent the Albanian secessionists from destroying or forging [official documents]’. According to the ministry's announcement, the public records taken from Kosovo to Serbia ‘represent a lasting and indisputable evidence on the persecution of Serbs, changes in the national structure and numerous misconduct carried out by the Albanian separatist authorities since 1989.’ One can assume that control of these records will also make it possible for the Belgrade authorities to selectively add to, remove or alter documentation to suit its own purposes. Due to the wide-scale confiscation and destruction of personal documents in the course of the expulsions during the recent war, many people in Kosovo today (40% or more according to various estimates) have no way of documenting their residence and personal histories.

We hope that these microfilmed directories will be a useful tool for the OSCE Mission in Kosovo as it prepares for elections ... as well as for other agencies involved in issues ranging from refugee returns and family reunification to the settlement of property disputes. Given the mobility of populations in all parts of the former Yugoslavia before, during, and after the 1991-9 conflicts, these directories would be of greatest utility in the form of a long-running, complete set rather than as individual directories limited to specific places and/or dates.

Please see the website for further information and to contact Norman Ross Publishers <> with any questions regarding this project.

Andras Riedlmayer, Harvard University

(reproduced from the International Justice Watch discussion list)


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